Gil Dodgen's Piano Albums

 

 

Feel free to make copies of these files and let others do the same. They were recently remastered from the original studio-quality master tapes which were recorded when I was an active concert pianist.

 

The Chopin and Liszt and Romantic Piano albums were recorded on a Baldwin SD-10 concert grand and the Gershwin album was recorded on a Steinway concert grand.

 

I studied piano as a child and through high school with Ruby Bailey who was a graduate of the Eastman Conservatory and the wife of the chairman of the music department at Washington State University, where my father was a professor of chemistry.

 

During my senior year of high school Ruby recommended that I study with her husband Jerry on the campus. That year was bittersweet. I played the Grieg A-Minor Concerto with a local orchestra and performed the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto at the university with Jerry playing the orchestra part on a second piano. A week after the Rachmaninoff performance, Jerry died of pneumonia at the age of 36.

 

I went on to major in music at WSU and Ruby went on to complete her advanced degrees. She eventually became a piano professor in the music department and I once again studied with her in college. For all practical purposes she taught me everything I know.

 

Ruby and I stayed in close touch over the years, and whenever my wife and I would go to Washington State to visit family I would visit Ruby and play her marvelous seven-foot Bosendorfer grand. She would visit us on an occasional trip to Southern California.

 

Ruby died in a single-car automobile accident in her mid-50s in 1993. She apparently fell asleep at the wheel. I loved her like a second mother, and still miss her greatly.

 


 

 

Chopin & Liszt Album

 

Track   Work                                                                               Composer

1          Etude in A Flat, Op. 25, No.1 (“Aeolian Harp”)           Chopin

2          Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12 (“Revolutionary”)   Chopin

3          Widmung (Dedication)                                                  Schumann/Liszt

4          Mephisto Waltz                                                              Liszt

5          Scherzo in B Minor, Op. 20                                           Chopin

6          Nocturne in C# Minor, Op. 27, No. 1                            Chopin

7          Polonaise in A-Flat, Op. 53                                           Chopin

 

 

Gershwin Album

 

Track

1, 2, 3  Three Preludes

4          Rhapsody In Blue

5…      The Gershwin Songbook (18 of Gershwin’s popular songs arranged for piano by Gershwin)

 

 

Romantic Piano Album

 

Track   Work                                              Composer

1          Scherzo No. 2, Opus 31                Chopin

2          Nocturne, Opus 9, No. 2               Chopin

3          Fantaisie-Impromptu, Opus 66     Chopin

4          Concert Etude (Un Sospiro)         Liszt

5          Liebestraum No. 3                        Liszt

6          Consolation No. 3                         Liszt

7          Etude Tableau, Opus 39, No. 5    Rachmaninoff

8          Prelude, Opus 32, No. 12             Rachmaninoff

 


 

Chopin and Liszt Album

 

 

Chopin, Etudes Op. 10, No. 12 and Op. 25, No. 1

 

The C minor and A-flat major etudes are a part of the series of etudes comprising the opus 10 and 25, one in each major and minor key. The opus 10 was completed by the time Chopin was 20, and the opus 25 by the time he was 27. The two sets of etudes are as close to perfection in any artistic endeavor as one can get. At the time of their appearance they represented something completely new in terms of piano technique, harmony and concept. One is astonished by their unflawed craftsmanship and superior melodic ideas, and one is doubly astonished by the age of their composer.

 

The C minor (Op. 10, No. 12) and A-flat major (Op. 25, No. 1) etudes of this series have been dubbed the Revolutionary and Aeolian Harp, respectively, by the extramusical associations they evoke.

 

The fall of Warsaw to the Russians is supposed by some to have motivated Chopin to the dramatic musical outburst represented by the Revolutionary etude. Chopin, though, was exclusively a composer of absolute music (the least programmatic of the great romantic composers), and the fall of Poland and the composition of this etude were probably independent, though roughly simultaneous events. An etude is a work designed to develop a specific aspect of piano playing, and the Revolutionary features rapid and extended arpeggios and passages for the left hand.

 

The A-flat major etude has earned its sobriquet from the swift, diffuse and murmuring accompaniment that is suggestive to fanciful minds of a light breeze playing on an aeolian harp. The etude is an exercise in multidynamic playing and differentiated touch, where a clearly etched legato melody (a more beautiful one has probably never been composed) is made to sing over the rapid accompaniment in both the left and right hands.

 

 

Schumann /Liszt Widmung

 

Liszt was by far the greatest and most prolific transcriber for piano of works originally intended for other instrumental combinations. These transcriptions of songs, chamber music, operas and symphonies of both great and obscure composers number in the hundreds, and they did much to popularize the original works in the pre-recording age. Most of these are not heard today because the music is easily accessible in its original form. In recent years, however, some of it has been revived since it still remains highly effective piano music.

 

The Widmung, originally a song by Robert Schumann, Liszt transcribed in a straightforward manner. The melodic line is unembellished, and the texture of the accompaniment is expanded to an orchestral fullness. One hears more Schumann than Liszt, and this work shows Liszt at his best as a transcriber.

 

Liszt, Mephisto Waltz

 

The Mephisto Waltz, the first of four that Liszt wrote, is based on an episode from Nikolaus Lenau's Faust. Like most artists of the romantic era, Liszt was captivated by the Faust legend, and based other works upon it.

 

The program of the music follows an incident that occurs in the travels of Faust and Mephistopheles. Upon deciding to stay at a village inn for a night where wedding festivities are in progress, Faust espies a peasant girl to whom he takes a fancy. Mephistopheles, upon learning of Faust's desires for the girl, seizes a violin from a musician in the tavern and plays a wild dance that causes all inhibitions to be discarded, the festivities degenerating into Bacchanalian revelry.

 

Liszt biographer Sacheverall Sitwell described the music as "haunted and evil," and the stormy surgings of the piece do indeed evoke such a mood. The Mephisto Waltz is one of Liszt's greatest original compositions, and one of the most physically taxing and technically demanding in the standard repertory.

 

 

Chopin, Scherzo in B Minor, Op. 20

 

The scherzo was introduced by Beethoven to replace the minuet as the third movement of sonatas and symphonies. Chopin, however, used the term to describe four independent works that he wrote.

 

In the B minor scherzo, as in the others Chopin wrote, a highly dramatic beginning and ending contrast with a lyric middle section. The crashing chords and subsequent agitated passages of the beginning of this work dispel any notions that Chopin was the composer only of overly languid music. The middle movement, derived from a Polish Christmas carol, is as lovely as any Chopin has written. But its mood is shattered by the repetition of the chords that marked the opening, as the piece returns to its original stormings.

 

 

Chopin, Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor Op. 27, No. 1

 

The nocturne, an atmospheric, languid and somewhat moody character piece was originated by the Irish composer John Field (1782-1837). Chopin adopted the name and idea and his creative genius raised them to a height where they became exclusively associated with his name.

 

Of the 19 nocturnes Chopin wrote, the C-sharp minor is somewhat atypical. This nocturne, basically a work in three short movements, begins with a melancholy, largo melody characteristic of Chopin. A quickening of tempo and lightening of mood denote the middle section, and then the subdued opening theme and atmosphere return for the denouement of the piece.

 

This is music intended for the salon, which easily makes the transition to the concert stage on the strength of its musical substance.

 

 

Chopin, Polonaise in A-Flat, Op. 53

 

The polonaise is another form that Chopin borrowed and ultimately made his own. This Polish dance in triple meter was greatly expanded in breadth and power of expression in the magnificent series of concert works that Chopin left as a testament of his Polish nationalism.

 

Ranking first amongst these, and one of the most famous and recognized works of the piano literature, is the polonaise in A-flat major. Cadenzas gradually build to the well-known heroic theme. The theme repeats itself twice, punctuated by a brief desultory interlude. Forte broken chords introduce a middle section that maintains the spirit of the opening. Here, an equally heroic theme sounds over a rush of descending octaves in the bass. The piece then becomes subdued before the ebullience and main theme return, climaxing in a fiery coda.

 

 

 

Romantic Piano Album

 

 

Chopin, Scherzo No. 2, Op. 31

 

The scherzo was originally used by Beethoven to replace the minuet movement of works in sonata form. Chopin composed four independent works of this title that were patterned after the sonata form of Beethoven's scherzos.

 

The first section of this scherzo has several motivic elements, the most insistent being the opening triplets. A con anima second subject is introduced featuring one of Chopin's notable cantabile melodies. The exposition is completely restated and an intermezzo follows. A reprise of the opening section is followed by an agitated coda pronouncing the cadence.

 

 

Chopin, Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2

 

Chopin's 19 creations in this form have almost totally eclipsed the nocturnes of other composers, including those of the nocturne's inventor, Irish composer John Field.

 

The second nocturne of the opus is the dreamy and romantic work that the title connotes. The mood is unchanged throughout this brief work, which consists of a single theme. The theme is restated and a shimmering cadenza precedes a subdued and abbreviated close.

 

 

 

 

Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66

 

The Fantaisie-Impromptu is the last and the most noted of Chopin's four impromptus. Though the title "impromptu" suggests a work of an improvisatory nature, this work shows the polish and careful craftsmanship typical of all Chopin's compositions. The impromptu opens with a swift exposition in four-against-three that soon dissolves into a slow section highlighted by one of Chopin's most celebrated melodies. The brisk opening is then recapitulated with the theme of the middle section quoted in the coda.

 

 

Liszt, Concert Etude, Un Sospiro

 

Un Sospiro is the third of the Trois Etudes de Concert that date from the year 1848. In this etude, a beautiful and poetic work, there is a pronounced Chopin influence that was typical of Liszt's compositions of this period. Though arpeggios involving the crossing of the hands are the technical emphasis of this etude, the musical conceptions are broader than that of a mere study.

 

 

Liszt, Liebestraum No. 3

 

In 1847, Liszt published a song, O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst which he transcribed for piano solo to become the third Liebestraum, the other two being transcriptions of his own songs as well.

 

The lyric and sentimental theme (one of the most famous in Western music) is repeated in increasingly dramatic versions. A sparkling cadenza signals the return of the original mood and a recapitulation of the theme precedes the work's gentle coda.

 

 

Liszt, Consolation No. 3

 

Of the six Consolations composed in the years 1848-1850, No. 3 is the best known. This work is short, simple and charming, and is another example of Chopin's influence on Liszt at this time.

 

The Consolations derive their title and inspiration from the poems of Sainte-Beuve and make for a pleasant respite from Liszt's usual heaven-storming piano works.

 

 

Rachmaninoff, Etude Tableau, Op. 39, No. 5

 

Rachmaninoff composed two volumes of Etudes Tableaux: the opus 33 (1911) and the opus 39 (1917). The etudes of the second volume were conceived on a broader scale, being more ambitious and complex, where each is essentially a small tone poem capturing a certain mood or sentiment.

 

The E-flat minor etude of the second volume, labeled "appassionato," roughly follows a ternary form that is typical of most of the pieces of the opus 39. A broadly conceived theme is featured in the opening and is contrasted to a contrapuntal middle section. The whole is pervaded by Rachmaninoff's characteristic rich chromatic harmonies.

 

 

Rachmaninoff, Prelude, Op. 32, No. 12

 

Like Chopin, Rachmaninoff published 24 preludes in each major and minor key (however, there are three additional preludes without opus numbers). While the Chopin preludes are essentially fragments and inchoate musical thoughts, Rachmaninoff's are extended and developed works with a variety of style and mood. The twelfth etude of the opus 32 is a piece of unrelieved somberness, the tone being set by the solemn theme of the opening in the left hand against the rapid treble accompaniment. A contrasting section treated with more vigor follows, before recapitulation and a pianissimo conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Gershwin Album

 

THREE PRELUDES

1) Allegro ben ritmato e deciso

2) Andante con moto e poco rubato

3) Allegro ben ritmato e deciso

 

RHAPSODY IN BLUE

 

THE GERSHWIN SONGBOOK (Complete)

The Man I Love

Swanee

Nobody But You

I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise

Do It Again

Fascinating Rhythm

Oh, Lady Be Good

Somebody Loves Me

Sweet And Low Down

Clap Yo' Hands

Do Do Do

My One And Only

'S Wonderful

Strike Up The Band

I Got Rhythm

Who Cares?

That Certain Feeling

Liza

 

In his book, The Agony Of Modern Music, Henry Pleasants suggests that the history of Western music essentially moved from the European "serious" tradition to American popular music after the First World War. In any event, the influence of American jazz on 20th century music cannot be denied, and the contribution of George Gershwin has made him, if not the American composer, certainly the most popular and authentic.

 

Gershwin was first and foremost a tunesmith, a songwriter; his gift for melody was seemingly inexhaustible. As a great songwriter in a great songwriting era, Gershwin's genuine curiosity and seriousness in the search of greater accomplishment in music lifted him to the level of a true genius of American music. The continued and undiminished popularity, to this day, of both his popular songs and his more serious works, attests to his immortality.

 

 

Gershwin performed five preludes for piano for the first time on December 4, 1926 at the Hotel Roosevelt in a recital with contralto Mme. d'Alvarez. The Preludes for Piano, the three surviving works from that original group, were published in 1927. He had apparently sketched about a half dozen such small piano pieces, one of which eventually became the opening material for the last movement of the Concerto in F.

 

The fast-slow-fast arrangement of the preludes imitates the aesthetic balance of tempo and mood long established by the tradition of the sonata. The first and third preludes are short in duration, fast, dynamic, syncopated and punchy. The middle "movement" is a blues piece which acquires much of its character from insistence on the minor third. It is interesting to note that while the pieces are clearly 20th century American music inspired of jazz, the composer uses the traditional Italian language for tempo indication and performance instruction. A distinction is thus implied between these "serious" compositions and, for example, the song transcriptions, which contain such instructions as, "in a jazzy manner."

 

One of the great disappointments about Gershwin's music, for pianists, is that while Gershwin himself was a pianist he wrote very little for solo piano. The Concerto, Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm Variations are all for piano and orchestra. Fortunately, with the Rhapsody we have a way out. Not only was the work originally scored for two pianos -- the second piano being orchestrated by Ferde Grofe -- but the composer played it in a solo version and recorded it for the Duo Art reproducing piano. In the solo version contained on this disc I have attempted to stay close to the original, with some minor modification in the traditional transcription of the orchestral sections, which must necessarily be modified for the keyboard. I think it is a mistake to try to imitate the orchestra on the piano, especially in this piece. There is no point in trying to duplicate the traditional opening "wail" of the clarinet or the sound of the wah-wah mute. This version is pianistic.

 

The success of the first performance of the Rhapsody is widely known and the merits and flaws of the piece have been widely discussed. But its significance is indisputable. With this work American music and the jazz idiom came of age.

 

 

George Gershwin, like many gifted composers, was known for his ability to improvise. He was always at the piano, experimenting with new ideas or harmonizing a song in a new and imaginative way. Witnesses to his improvisation talked about his miracles in counterrhythms, the intricacy and logic of his voice leading and his clever modulations. Fortunately, he left us transcriptions for piano of 18 of his popular songs. It can be argued whether or not these song transcriptions are examples of how Gershwin improvised. Certainly the reports mentioned above would suggest that these short works are not as sophisticated as his playing. On the other hand, as one studies these little pieces (the shortest lasts only 34 seconds) the composer's inventiveness becomes obvious. When played up to tempo many of them also become quite demanding technically.

 

Perhaps the answer to the enigma lies in the fact these 18 songs are more miniature piano pieces than anything else. In them we find a catalog of pianistic devices used not only by Gershwin but by other popular keyboard musicians of the period. The 20-minute group makes up a Visions Fugitives, a fleeting glimpse of Gershwin the pianist and songwriter.